By Alexander Dworkowitz
For more than two decades, people from all over the borough have descended on Whitestone to taste traditional Greek foods, shop at flea markets and talk with friends at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church's annual festival at the beginning of June.
But this year the church faces opposition to its event.
Saying Holy Cross knowingly disregarded regulations last June, the leadership of Community Board 7 has recommended the city turn down any permits for this year's festival.
The Rev. Protopresbyter Nickolas Kouvaris, the head of Holy Cross, said he was aware of complaints about the festival.
“I understand,” he said. “We are really trying to do our best. But if you have [5,000] or 6,000 people, it's impossible to control this.”
Every year the celebration is held in the blocks surrounding the church, which is located at 150-05 12th Ave.
After the conclusion of last year's festival, Community Board 7 Chair Eugene Kelty wrote to Mildred Duran, the director of the city's permit office.
Kelty said that despite meetings between the community board and the church prior to the festival, Holy Cross violated many of its promises.
In particular, the church did not have a permit for rides during two days of the four-day festival and sold alcohol without a permit, Kelty said.
“Based upon the … total disregard to the commitment made by the church and the noise and parking problems that this festival generates, Community Board 7 is officially going on record as disapproving any future street activity permits for Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church,” Kelty wrote.
Kelty also said in his letter that the festival was noisy and caused parking problems for local residents.
While not publicly taking a stance on the issue, the Greater Whitestone Civic Taxpayers Association has also discussed the situation, said Nick Leone, vice president of community affairs.
“We've gotten numerous complaints from a lot of people,” Leone said. “A lot of people are against it all together.”
Kouvaris said his organization was going on with its plans despite the opposition of the community board and was filing for street permits for June 5 through June 8.
Kouvaris contested Kelty's claim that his church intentionally violated regulations, saying the church's permit for the rides was “in process” at the time of last year's festival.
“Actually we had it,” he said. “It's not that we didn't have it at all. We didn't get it in time.”
Due to rain on those days, the rides were hardly even used, Kouvaris said.
The head of Holy Cross also said last year's sale of alcohol was perfectly legal.
“We had a liquor license last year,” he said. “Of course we were selling our beers and wine on the tables.”
Kouvaris said he thought a small group of people was complaining very loudly about the church and most of his neighbors were supportive of the church.
“I'm especially grateful to the community of Whitestone, not only to the Greeks,” he said. “They really do come and participate.”
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.